Learning Signed English has enabled Chae Enns

Breaking down barriers

Students, teachers learn sign language to help classmate

Seven-year-old Chae Enns was having a hard time communicating with anyone — until he was given the gift of sign language.

Chae has Down syndrome and struggles with verbal communication. “Most of his communication is nonverbal, he says very little,” said Helena Prins, a kindergarten teacher at Lighthouse Christian Academy in Langford.

Prins started looking into sign language out of “pure desperation.” She turned to the Internet and began looking up a sign or two to teach him.

It worked.

“We reached a wall, he was so frustrated,” Prins said. “He is a very social boy, and he could understand what everyone around him was saying.”

Once he learned a few signs of the Signed English system, Chae’s behaviour and temperament improved.

“When I started here he had behaviour problems, he was frustrated, and he couldn’t express himself,” said Cassandra Nardini, a Lighthouse education assistant. “He’s very well-behaved now.”

Teaching Chae to sign was only part of what needed to happen. Once Chae knew how to sign, others needed to learn too, so he could communication effectively.

The school hired Dorothy Tait, an augmentative communication consultant to teach signing to staff members.

Several teachers, including Chae’s future Grade 1 teacher, the principal, vice-principal and education assistants are learning to speak with their hands.

“The whole community is supporting this child,” Tait said. “Everyone is learning it because they want to.”

With so many people in the school able to communicate with Chae, the responsibility has been shared, Prins said. “That’s what makes it so special.”

Chae started kindergarten in January for a second time, and is entering in Grade 1 next fall.

Kids in his class are learning to sign as well. In some situations when Chae feels he is being treated unfairly, he is able to use his hands to tell them that he is feeling angry. All his classmates can understand him.

“It allows the kids to interact with him,” Nardini said adding his peers will travel through school with him over the next few years.

Some Chae’s family members have attended classes along with school staff. “I need to practise more. Chae is actually teaching me, he’s very enthusiastic,” said Becky Enns, Chae’s mother.

Another bonus that stems from the sign language is his verbal communication has been slowly progressing as well.

“I make him say the word as well as the sign,” said Becky. “Learning the words has been a challenge.”

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com

 

 

Just Posted

Free firework safety courses coming to the West Shore right before Halloween

No permit? You could be fined anywhere between $100 and $10,000

Fairfield-Gonzales residents aim to establish senior care phone line

The Fairfield-Gonzales Village would allow seniors living alone to have a direct line to resources

Vendors open doors to new futures at Black Press Extreme Education & Career Fair

More tham two dozen employers, educators signed on for Victoria event

Persons Day to be marked with literary readings in Sidney

Peninsula authors to read from their new books relating to women and courageous journeys, Oct. 18

Antimatter 2019: The best in experimental media art comes to Victoria

22nd annual festival of film, performance art and more biggest ever – 120 artists, 30 countries

VIDEO: Greater Victoria, here’s the news you missed this weekend

Dog killed in alleged hit and run, Goodlife Marathon takes over city and more

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

The one with the ‘Friends’ photoshoot: Kelowna group recreates TV show intro

A friend’s departure prompted them to create something that really says, “I’ll be there for you”

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

Most Read